Race Recap – 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

Race Recap – 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

I find it SO hard to believe that a week ago, I ran my third marathon—and it ended up being a sub 4:00 one as well! So many things went well with this training cycle, and even though the race is over, this particular marathon has given me the encouragement to keep pushing my training to the next level and conquering more goals associated with this distance.

In the days leading up to the race, I actually wasn’t too hyped up for it. I had other things on my mind (lab work + lab “social” life), but I still made time to go down to the expo at the convention center late Friday afternoon on race weekend.

My third marathon expo.
My third marathon expo.

It was really just a routine visit. I wasn’t too excited about sticking around. To keep up with tradition, I found and photographed my name on the runner’s wall, picked up my race bib/shirt, and walked around the booths for just long enough to gather some freebies.

Trying to find/get all the samples I can.
Trying to find/get all the samples I can.

I didn’t gather much despite it being a MARATHON expo (just a couple mini Larabars and a coconut water), but one of my favorite booths was Clif bar’s. They had samples of their newest nut butter-filled bars and ginger ale/spearmint shot bloks!

Hello, Clif!
Hello, Clif!

After taking a picture with my bib at one of the booths, I decided to head home. I was actually feeling pretty hungry so the “carbo-loading”, you could say, commenced that night—with a Spicy Lentil Wrap from Trader Joe’s.

spicy_lentil_Wrap
Friday night turn down 😴 with a Spicy Lentil wrap from Trader Joe’s. I put this right up there with the grilled eggplant wrap!

Tahini sauce brings everything up a level, just sayin’.

The day before the race was a relaxing one, but because I was with E in Glendale, we did plenty of walking. I did try to keep hydrated and made sure to get home early enough to set aside my stuff for race morning and get into bed by 8:30pm.

I woke up the next morning at 3:30am (yes, it’s true), got my race gear together, and called for a Lyft since the rest of my teammates were taking a ride share service/staying at a hotel near the start with family. From Santa Monica, the drive was less than 20 min.

I got to the start with a good 2.5 hours to spare before we had to toe the start line. I had plenty of time to collect some free shot bloks and Clif bars, fuel up with “breakfast”, use the restroom, and warm-up. It was still very breezy and cool outside, so I stayed warm by huddling in a corner of one of the open women’s restrooms.

Waiting at Dodger's Stadium...
Waiting at Dodger’s Stadium…

I was waiting solo for a long while…my teammates did not show up until about 5:30am. Even then, it took me a while to find/get to them at the seats on the ground level. There were a a few of us who met at this point, and after a group picture, we immediately went to bag check and then the start.

I decided to start in the open corral with three of my teammates since I wanted to pace with someone from the beginning. Looking back, I feel like this strategy helped me immensely in getting that sub 4:00. It took us a while to get to a sustainable race pace since we were slowed down by the crowds of the open corral, but once we made it past downtown, I kept up with one of my female teammates for the majority of the race.

Everything felt great for the first half of the race. We were running down Sunset and I felt comfortable enough to talk with my teammate at an 8:47/mi pace. Once we made a turn in Hollywood however, things started to shift.

I felt a sharp pain in my right foot as we made our way down a steep downhill. I had a feeling that I got my first black (big) toenail, and despite knowing this, I tried to ignore it for sanity’s sake.

The next slip-up was my fueling strategy. I was so focused on hydration that I wasn’t sure when to start chewing on my bloks. In my last two marathons, I busted out the plastic bag between miles 11-13, but this time, I was more concerned about keeping up with my teammate. I also didn’t feel too hungry (in fact, my stomach felt a little bit “mixed”…in that, a bathroom stop would have been nice).

When we reached Beverly Hills, I began to second guess my earlier actions of not fueling up. I was starting to feel slightly fatigued, and felt like I had to push quite a bit to keep holding on with my teammate. I surprisingly managed to make it through miles 17-20 without giving up or writhing on Rodeo Dr!

Once we reached UCLA/West LA territory though, we were hitting the Mile 20 mark. My teammate took off, but I listened to my body and just kept my pace. I stopped to take out my bloks and began to fuel up at this point.

Once I reached Mile 21, I felt a little bit better. Mile 22 was when we began to approach Brentwood/San Vicente—the last four miles of the race towards the SaMo finish! Honestly, this was the worst part of the race for me (up until 25.5!!) because I felt tired (mentally mostly), and irritated by anyone that said we were “almost there”. My pace wavered in the 8:50/mi range until it settled at 8:55/mi. I didn’t want it to dip into the 9:00/mi range, so I made sure to keep my walking breaks incredibly short.

By the time I got to Ocean Ave., I tried to let the crowds around me give me the final push I needed to finish fiercely. The finish line felt incredibly far away, but once I hit 25.5, I started to kick things up and go, go, go! The shot bloks were finally kicking in I suppose! When I crossed the line, I had run the race at a solid time of 3:53:57. I didn’t know of this time exactly until I read a series of texts from my Dad since he had been tracking me the entire run.

Bag check was much better this year!
Bag check was much better this year!

I was able to slow down to a walk, gather a medal and my gear at bag check, huddle up with a heat sheet, and take some fun post-race photos. I also collected as many protein bars as my arms could carry, and met up with my teammates at our designated family reunion area meeting spot.

People around me were still in a daze...
People around me were still in a daze…

I waited with my team for about an hour and a half just to congratulate, commiserate, and photograph the moment. The teammate I had ran with up until mile 20 ran a 3:46 marathon, and considering it was her first, she did a great job.

All of us took the train back to our destinations, and I got off pretty quickly. It felt so nice to be able to get back home at a decent time, unlike how it was the past two years fighting traffic to get to downtown! Now I had enough time to attend to my battle scars…

One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!
One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!

At least this small gem reminded me that I just did something pretty amazing that morning??

3rd time's a charm!
3rd time’s a charm!

Out of all the 26.2 distances I’ve raced, this one was the most painful, but also the most accomplishing. I had a goal, and luckily was able to meet it. It was a challenge, but a challenge worth giving up a smooth heel and big toe nail for. And if I only want to get better and faster at this monstrous distance, it’s only going to get more eventful from here!

Have you ever run a marathon/had a great marathon experience?

Would you ever consider running a marathon?

Have you ever had a black toe nail?

Cupcake Caught My Eye

Cupcake Caught My Eye

After getting my fill of Mediterranean food for lunch on Saturday, I couldn’t help but make a pit stop…for cupcakes!

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Big Man Bakes

Big Man Bakes is a cupcake store I used to pass on some Sunday long runs when I lived near DTLA. I would sometimes run past it before turning right, back to Figueroa. This time however, I was walking straight towards it.

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Just FYI…

Once I got to the small storefront, I gazed into the display case of perfectly frosted cupcakes, and didn’t even know what to pay attention to first.

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Cupcakes and gear

The young lady behind the counter was eager to share a bit about Big Man Bakes, and some of their classic and seasonal flavors that were currently available. I was thinking I’d go for the Red Velvet or Oreo…

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Utensils and things

…but in the end, I went with a seasonal flavor—strawberry!

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Ready to eat!

It was called an “XL” cupcake, but it really wasn’t that big. To me, it seemed like a standard-sized cupcake.

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The Strawberry XL Cupcake

The cake itself was moist, but it didn’t stand out in regards to flavor. I was also hoping for a generous serving of cream filling on the inside, but sadly, that wasn’t the case.

At least it was pretty photogenic:

strabery
Views of a cupcake…

Are you picky when it comes to cupcakes?

Big Man Bakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tiramisu Thoughts

Tiramisu Thoughts

I left my house Sunday morning around 7:30am, waking up to a light fog cast around my neighborhood. I only needed to put in 8 miles that day. The running miracle that is ‘tapering’…

I ran a route close to home solo, since many of my teammates are undergrads that went home for spring break. I took it as an opportunity to run AT home, and eat here after the run as well.

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Urth Caffe – Santa Monica

I finished my run on Main St., pretty much at the steps of Urth Caffe. It had been a few years now since I’ve been to one…the visits I paid the WeHo and DTLA locations were when I was a fresh Los Angeleno craving weekend foodie adventures and soaking in as much of the city as possible.

Two and half years later, I walk into this Urth Caffe with a straighter posture and resting LA face (much like a another “resting face” people are more familiar with…). I get in line, knowing that crowds are expected even at 9am on a Sunday, barely giving the menu a glance since I already know what I’m going to get—a Spanish Latte with soymilk and an Earl Grey Tiramisu.

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Feeling like a latte…

I take my honey-glazed, sweet-filled pastry over to a counter seat by the window. I dig in with a fork, and people-watch as I think about a number of things. The fact that I walked into this place on a whim…it wasn’t planned. I felt like having something sweet paired with something warm, Urth was nearby, so I just went.

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Views.

Even two and a half years ago, I would have been riddled with panic if my food plans had to change. Any and all visits were planned, and excuses were made if anything tried to “destroy” those plans.

tiramisooooooo
Hello, gorgeous.

But now, I was digging into this tiramisu with enjoyment. The calorie counter was still ticking in my head, but the number didn’t phase me as much as it used to. I got this tiramisu not because of its number, but because I was craving it as my post-run treat.

When my latte arrived, I held the mug in both hands, took a sip, and was immediately transported to Barcelona.

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Something warm.

A young woman sitting next to me looking over sheet music asked how I was doing with a huge smile, which at first took me by surprise, but then I gave a her a huge smile back. There was no need to hold on to my “resting LA face”. Happiness starts with YOU, and welcoming every smile or greeting bestowed upon you by others only helps to grow and sustain that happiness.

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“I may not be in Barcelona, but I’m going to pretend I was there yesterday morning since this Spanish Latte certainly made me feel like I was”

I left Urth Caffe feeling refreshed and fulfilled with my self-care time and reflections. I have so much to be thankful for, and so much to look forward to. I used to fear the unknown, rather than look at it with anticipation.

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Slice of decadence…

I could sit back, and worry about not hitting my goal to run under 4 hours at the marathon this weekend. I could ruminate over whether or not I can sustain the relationships I am cultivating now in the future. I could be anxious about reaching my academic and career goals…but I’m coming to the realization that letting those thoughts take up brain space leads to wasted time…

I’d rather be using that time laughing with E in lab over a coffee break, smiling to myself when I reread funny text conversations between my sister and I, and taking pride in my daily running achievements (whether that be a new fast pace or just getting out to run despite not having the motivation).

Honestly, life is just too short…get that piping hot Spanish latte, demolish that decadent tiramisu, and take pride in knowing that life is yours for the taking.

earl_grey.
“Run 8 miles, replenish with an Earl Grey Tiramisu”…and enjoy life.

Urth CaffΓ© Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Spring is Here?

Spring is Here?

I don’t think I ever got the memo that Spring was coming fast this year. I literally woke up on Saturday morning wondering how on earth it was so bright at 6am all of a sudden??

I cam across this sticker on Friday, and while it was a truthful statement, I couldn't help but add that "we can get over them" when I snapchatted it to my sister and friends.
I cam across this sticker on Friday, and while it was a truthful statement, I couldn’t help but add that “we can get over them” when I snapchatted it to my sister and friends.

After getting my blood flowing with a morning run, I proceeded to make the most of my Saturday by showering, putting on a summer-worthy outfit (shorts + a breezy knit tee!), and heading out the door well before 9am. I had to make a stop in lab before heading out for the afternoon.

I had a desire to venture out into DTLA for once, since it’s been a while I had it as a set lunch destination. I ended up taking the train/subway to Pershing Square, a little east of 7th St/Metro, closer to old downtown.

Old DTLA
Old DTLA

A lot of the places I’ve bookmarked in my foodie bucket list were actually lined up along Main St….as if they all knew I’d arrive one day ready to embark on a culinary tour through downtown! My focus that day, however, was set on having lunch at Spread Mediterranean Kitchen.

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Spread Mediterranean Kitchen

There was barely anyone inside when I arrived, and I was shocked. Inside, it was cool, calming, and the decor just brought about a very chill vibe.

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Inside Spread Mediterranean Kitchen.

The menu is very simple, and build-your-own style entrees take center-stage. The base can be a flatbread wrap, rice salad greens, or hummus with flatbread. I picked hummus with flatbread.

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Pickled things

To top your base, there is everything from falafel to meatballs to chicken to braise to mushrooms. I picked the roasted mushroom medley with garlic, herbs, and sumac.

hummus
Roasted mushroom medley with garlic, herbs, and sumac on top of hummus.

Finally, all of this is prepared in a certain style. There’s more of the hummus route, cooling tzatziki, cheesy za’atar, or spicy harissa yogurt. I went with the ‘cheesey & spicy’ style that contained feta lebneh & jalapeno spread, spicy slaw, pickled red onion, and harissa spiked yogurt.

This whole combination ended up with a plate like below:

yeah
Everything mixed together.

And of course, my flatbread came seasoned and freshly-folded in a printed paper sheet.

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Flatbread, yay!

The mushrooms were roasted in a dark, orange-colored oil that carried so much flavor. This mixed well with the hummus, refreshing dollop of lebneh, and crunchy slaw. The flatbread was just an accessory—if I still had half a plate of hummus left after eating all of the flatbread, I would have had no issue at all!

I had wiped the bowl clean in no time at all, and I would have spent more time mourning over how quickly I feasted on this scrumptious meal, but the gorgeous spring weather outside was beckoning me. I found myself again on Main St., with an interest in keeping this “foodie tour” going. My next stop was going to fulfill a “sudden” cupcake craving I had developed…

Were you expecting spring to come so soon this year?

Spread Mediterranean Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Let the Good Times Roll

Let the Good Times Roll

I got a good dose of endorphins and happy hormones last Saturday. Actually, the happiness rush began last Thursday evening, when I received a care package from my Dad! He says it’s for passing my quals, but I think he would have been kind enough to send me a little something regardless πŸ˜‰ . It absolutely made my week and I thanked him for it!

care__package
“This is what happens when your Dad wants to surprise you for passing your qualifying exam a little over a month ago…and when Sprouts has a 3/$5 deal on @lennyandlarrys cookies. Shipping just the cookies alone in a small mailing box did not justify the shipping price. So in went some other items, and the box naturally grew wider πŸ˜‚. Haha, I was so happy to find this at my doorstep yesterday evening ☺️”

On Saturday, my friend from lab (let’s call her “E”) and I were able to hang out outside of lab again. We had not spent some free time together since our movie outing to see Hidden Figures last month, so a girl’s day was overdue!

We both met in lab (duh) Saturday morning to take care of some things for our experiments. From there, we bused to Koreatown, laptops in hand and with coffee on the mind.

She used to frequent a little, hole-in-the-wall place known as Document Cafe. Based on her previous ventures, she has been insisting that we both go together sometime to have coffee and get some work done, since they have a good environment for working and strong wi-fi.

working__2
People here know the drill…

We finally did so on Saturday, and I was able to prevent her from buying for me ;). She got a simple cappucino (with barista foam art) and I felt adventurous and bought their affogato.

affo
“Affogatos and data analysis on a Saturday afternoon with the lab bestie β˜•οΈ πŸ”¬ πŸ€“. This vanilla bean ice cream + chicory root coffee mix from @document_coffee_bar was excellent!”

We found seats by the wall, set-up our workspaces, and waited for our caffeinated creations to be completed.

working
Waiting for treats!

My affogato immediately reminded me of a mini root beer float. It had a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the bottom, chicory root coffee throughout the cup, and then another generous scoop of vanilla bean ice cream at the top.

little_Affo_spoon
Cute little spoon to eat the Affogato with.

I will say that it doesn’t taste good unless you completely immerse the coffee with some of the ice cream, the melted parts. Otherwise the drink tastes too bitter…

We spent about 2 hours at the cafe enjoying our afternoon treats and working on lab-related data analysis/readings. We also chatted while doing so, just so that we made the whole experience a little bit more fun.

After getting our fill of caffeine, we had enough energy to walk to Wilshire/Vermont. It was approaching 4pm, and we figured why not have some froyo before calling it a day?

Yogurtland was just down the way, and I went to town with three different flavors of froyo, poppers, mochi, maraschino cherries, and Whoppers chocolate malt balls.

froYO
“Yesterday’s fun day out in K-Town naturally ended with a stop at @yogurtlandinc . Froyo makes the best accompaniment for lab gossip πŸ™ŠπŸ˜œ”

We gossiped about lab and the crazy antics of our colleagues. It felt so good to be able to vent and laugh with E outside of lab!!

I left for home around 5, and got back around 6. Since our “last” team long run before the marathon was the next morning, I went to sleep early to ensure I’d be rested enough to put in a good effort into the taper πŸ˜‰ . Sure enough, it worked since I ran the 12 miles at an average pace of 8:07/mi! Really, really hoping that I can pull off a sub-4:00 come next Sunday!

I definitely do think that having days much like Saturday have been helpful in keeping my mood up, and feeling validated by my running improvements has also helped a lot. I know that it’s normal to have an ebb and flow with moods and feelings (it’s HEALTHY to feel sad sometimes), but if I can find ways to keep my happiness up the majority of the time, why not πŸ™‚ ?

What do you do to keep happy?

Document Coffee Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Repeat of 2016?

Repeat of 2016?

I returned to California early last week, and I was in a deep funk for a couple days. My two weeks off from lab, spent with family, was JUST what I needed and my only regret was that it wasn’t longer!

At least I had a surprise package waiting for me…I tried Enlightened Roasted Broad Bean Crisps for the first time thanks to a little box with some fun-flavored goods:

crisps
Enlightened saved me from the doldrums!

They were the dessert flavors: Cocoa Dusted and Sweet Cinnamon.

cocoa_dusted
Cocoa Dusted description

I had both flavors straight out of the bag. Out of the two, I loved the cinnamon-flavored ones the most since they reminded me of those churro twists from Taco Bell I had long ago…

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Sweet Cinnamon

Cocoa Dusted was good too, I just preferred cinnamon over chocolate coating πŸ˜›

cocoadust
Cocoa Dusted up close & personal

I decided to keep close to West LA since I knew DTLA would be abuzz with the LA Fit Expo going on. I also had to go into lab, which would have cut into any day plans if I had scheduled any. So after lab, I came back to Culver City and had lunch literally across the street from the train station…at Sweetgreen! I find it hilarious that my first outing to a restaurant for 2017 is Sweetgreen once again…I dined at a Sweetgreen in Mid-City last year as my first outing in 2016! I wonder if it will become tradition…

sweetgreen
Sweetgreen’s newest—Culver City

They recently opened up shop here in a complex called The Platform. It was already in full swing with customers eating outside even though it was cloudy out.

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Order at the counter

The seating arrangements inside were too small, and if everyone in line had decided to dine in, there would have been no way. I did get a seat however, by the window. It was just a table that wasn’t wiped clean since the last customer, and only had one chair so I had to sit with my bag on my lap, haha!

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Lot’s to choose from!

When it was my turn to order, I decided to get a warm bowl. The Shroomami sounded amazing, with glazed tofu, rice, kale, …, and it was vegan so even more of a plus!

lookatdatbowl
My Shroomami bowl [vegan] ~ organic wild rice, shredded kale, raw beets, bean sprouts, basil, spicy sunflower seeds, roasted sesame tofu, warm portobello mix, miso sesame ginger dressing
I also got a slice of bread on the side, and enjoyed the bowl while people/train watching through the window.

sideofbread_tofu
Slice of bread, and look at that tofu!

After eating lunch, I got grocery shopping done at Sprouts. I love it when restaurants/grocery stores are all in one area since it makes running weekend errands so much easier.

While picking up staples for the week, I came across another RX Bar flavor I have yet to try—Peanut Butter! When I was checking out in line, there was a guy in front of me who noticed my purchase-to-be, and asked where he could find them. As soon as I told him, he dashed over to the bar aisle while the cashier began to check out his items!

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RX Peanut Butter bar…has exactly 14 peanuts?

I tried the bar as I was waiting for the train to go home. I like the smooth texture of the bar, and it kind of made me think of the Chocolate Coconut flavor without coconut, and with a mild peanut scent reminiscent of how the maple scent defined the Maple Sea Salt flavor. I guess I could understand why that guy at Sprouts was in such a mad dash to get those bars for himself?

Have you eaten out since the new year began?

Sweetgreen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Choc-A-Lot Lovin’

Choc-A-Lot Lovin’

When I lived near DTLA, it honestly sometimes felt like a chore to plan long runs on the weekends. When my marathon team was training, it was easier to run the long runs with them because of the company (safety in numbers!) and varied routes/locations each week. On my own however, I was restricted to a limited route in downtown that often included multiple loops, depending on if it was a 10 or 14 miler. I also had to be weary about the time I set out to go run, either due to weather or safety concerns.

While those urban runs have a soft spot in my heart, these circumstances have made me more grateful that I have the opportunity to live where I do now. Running to the beach, running alongside the beach, and just being in Santa Monica makes running so much more easier. Sometimes just running alongside the beach can get mundane, but the views are so humbling.

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Hello home πŸ™‚

After I finished a 11 miler on Sunday, I had to stop and take in the moment atop some steps by the pier. Once I had my moment of gratitude, I continued on forward because a certain donut shop was calling my name πŸ˜‰

Another thing I love about living in SaMo is the fact that there are so many amazing restaurants, cafes, and shops here that people from all over make their travel plans around. I was (and still am) that person who has a long list of all the foodie places I want to go to. When I first moved to LA, the majority of them were in Santa Monica/West LA, and since then, the list has grown to include even MORE places in the West side of the city…

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Sidecar Doughnuts!

One of those places was Sidecar Doughnuts. They recently opened shop in SaMo, expanding north from their roots in Costa Mesa. The line was already long when I came by a little before 10.

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Hipsters wait for doughnuts.

They had all sorts of fruity and seasonal flavors, but for some reason the chocolate flavor called out to me so loudly, haha. Maybe it was the glaze, glistening brightly through the glass.

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Um, yeah doughnuts!!

Everyone around me was getting sampler trays and boxes. I have yet to purchase more than one doughnut from a doughnut shop, but maybe one of these days I’ll have a reason to.

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That lady was busy picking out a box of doughnuts, lol

This time around, it was just me and this Choc-A-Lot doughnut πŸ™‚

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Raised chocolate ring topped with chocolate glaze and cocoa nibs

The doughnut had a cake texture, and the chocolate glaze had solidified so that the cacao nibs on top stayed perfectly in place. It was photogenic and worthy of a food magazine cover shot.

I also had a latte on the side, but it was disgusting. Sidecar, just stick to doughnuts please…

dontgetthis
This latte, ick.

I would not call myself a doughnut person, but I would rank this particular doughnut high, high up there. Plus, all the Cali hipsters were here that Sunday morning. That’s gotta count for something right πŸ˜‰ ?

Sidecar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run 2016

Race Recap – Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run 2016

My last race for this year was one I actually ran two years ago—this time fortunately fared much better in pacing! I also did not have to wake up early in order to have enough time to take a bus or train to get to the race start. I just had to wake up, go out for a “warm-up jog”, and within a half hour I was there!

start
Santa all smiles at the race start.

There was no bag check (of course), so there was no place to keep my race shirt, even though I wanted to keep it because it was a long-sleeve and actually pretty cute! The 10k and 5k race starts were staggered so that the 10k race started at 8am. The 5kers had a head start at 7:30am, and so the majority of the runners from that race were done by the time we started.

Santa cheered us on as we dashed across the starting line. I was able to keep a steady pace between 7:40-8:20 throughout the entire run. At first it felt my lungs were burning from the cold air, and my feet also began to feel numb through my socks, but after ~2 miles in, it began to feel easier to stick to a faster pace the rest of the run.

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Bunch of people wondering what to do after the race has finished…and the DJ rockin’ out to his own jamz.

I finished at an average pace of 8:12/mi, and it felt so refreshing! I managed to guzzle down a half a bottle of water, and proceeded to walk by the small number of booths that were present. I also couldn’t help but notice the DJ who was there—he was very much into the music!

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Yay…okay, now I’m bored…

I couldn’t find much in terms of samples and post-race freebies…I even had to pass on some intriguing-looking marshmallows because they contained gelatin πŸ™

couldnt-have-these-tho
Why is there gelatin in you?!

Since there was nothing much left for me at this point, I ended up walking from the finish point in Venice back to Santa Monica…really it was only a 25 minute walk, and from the beach, it was another 30 minute walk to lunch.

I actually ended up at a Medditeranean/Lebanese restaurant on Pico—Z Garden.

z-garden
I see you…

When I stepped inside, it was as if I stepped inside my best friend’s family’s house. There was a TV playing Arabic music videos and a whole glass counter full of baklava and other Middle Eastern sweet treats.

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Such ample seating!

There was a handful of vegetarian items on the menu, and I decided to get the veggie kebab plate.

The dining area was in a expansive space, but I was their lone diner at the time. A few people came in for take-out orders while I was there though.

My plate came with a generous portion of Lebanese rice, a side salad, smooth, finely-ground hummus, a sour cheese I’m assuming was labne, pickled radishes, and of course my roasted veggies.

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Veggie Kebab Plate—-fit for a vegetarian ready to feast!

ALso had to have pita bread on the side!

pitaaaaaaaaa
Can’t forget the pita!

I was the ultimate fan of this hummus…and cheese side.

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Hummus (and labne)?

I was finished by noon, and continued my walk home. I immediately did some laundry and organizing before crashing into a two-hour long nap. I didn’t leave the house until later that evening to visit a friend, since she’s moving from LA this week with her lab to a different university. It was bittersweet having to send her off, but I have to say I’m proud of myself for going out on a Saturday night for once. I even stayed out late enough to call for an Uber back home, haha.

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In good time πŸ™‚

Are you a fan of holiday-themed events?

Z Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – South Pasadena Tiger Run 5k/10k

Race Recap – South Pasadena Tiger Run 5k/10k

I cannot believe I am actually saying this…but pretty much since after Thanksgiving weekend, it has been FREEZING here in LA. Now, freezing by definition here means anything below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so it doesn’t take more than a cooler-than-usual wind chill to cause misery.

Last Saturday, I made my way over to South Pasadena to participate in a 5k race I signed up for by “accident”. I intended to register for the 10k, but somehow during the registration process, I ended up enrolling in the 5k! I didn’t regret that choice however, since I’ve been wanting to PR in the distance at a race for a couple months now…at least since my last 5k race in Owasso back in August.

south-pasadena-high-school
My arms were numb at this point…

I was NOT prepared for the bone-chilling cold that kept me frozen on my way to So Pas. I had a long sleeve base and put a t-shirt on top to keep warm, but I still had to cross my arms in order to not feel cold (even if it was a placebo effect).

Fortunately, I made it to the high school where the race was taking place, and immediately found warmth in the school’s cafeteria, where packet pick-up was also being held.

packet-pickup
Packet pick-up inside a warm, insulated building (:

Ofcourse like every race I’ve attended as of late, there was NO BAG CHECK. UGH!

I loaded up my belt as much as I could, and put everything else that wouldn’t fit (i.e. the race long sleeve shirt) into a drawstring bag that I then tied so tightly around my chest that it looked like a bra (lol…).

shirt
I’ve been needing more long sleeves…

In the time remaining until the race start, I stretched, used the restroom, and even did a warm-up around the track to feel like a “professional runner” and all.

For it being a local race, it had a pretty big turn-out. There were a lot of runners—especially those who were confident enough to toe the very front of the line. I kept it modest and didn’t stand too far in front, but I did stand within the front of the pack in hopes of finding someone I could pace with and hit a PR as a result.

They did a poor job with the send-off, since none of us even heard an alarm or someone signal us to go. I dashed as soon as the person in front of me jerked forward, and even though I had warmed up, I feared that I had pulled a muscle because I had started so abruptly.

Despite starting so fast, I held myself together and kept a consistent pace that did slow down as time went on, but still averaged at a 7:37/mi by the end of it.

The air was so cold that my lungs burned with each breath. In the past, I would have dreaded this immensely and would have found the situation to be unbearable. In this race however, I actually felt invigorated by it. I didn’t even mind a hill that came up around half way…before I knew it, I could see the finish line on the track in the distance.

I slowed my stride as I passed the finish and gulped down the first water bottle in sight. I stuck around to see if I had placed in my age group, despite there not being any good booths or post-race freebies. Most of the booths were fundraising-based booths for South Pasadena High School. Don’t expect me to bring money if you don’t offer bag check! 

booths
So many booths, no cash. The seaweed was free though.

An hour after my finish, they announced race awards. I learned that I did place, and I received a medal that was far from a shabby dollar store trinket.

medal
Yay! A race PR (:

To celebrate the speedy 5k finish, I took the train back one stop to Highland Park, and walked a few blocks down to a very much in-trend bakery shop—Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.

all-butter-everything
All Butter Everything…

It was 10am, and there was already a line. The Highland Park hipsters were already seated, munching and chatting while eating pretty little desserts by the box.

mrholmesbakehouse
“I got baked in Los Angeles”

I was seriously overwhelemed. I had no need to keep my phone photo-taking a secret—I whipped out my phone for all to see and captured every angle…especially of these baby beauties.

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Gourmet donuts and cruffins!

My eyes immediately landed on the creme-filled donuts. Something about their soft, sugary bread and fruity cream top spoke to me I guess.

cranberry-donut
So classy, yet down-to-earth at the same time 🍩 πŸ’•πŸ’• ✌️

I got a cranberry-filled creme donut and felt like a princess, even though I was still in my running clothes. I thought the creme filling would taste like frosting, but it actually had the texture of greek yogurt? It caught me slightly off guard, but it was still a delicious treat! Because of the random creme filling not really being the creme I expected, I didn’t feel the need to take home a giant box of their treats like I saw others doing. Perhaps one day I’ll come back just to try the cruffin though!

igotbakedinlosangeles_mrholmesbakehouse
Love how the theme is carried over even into the take-out bags! 🍩 πŸ’•πŸ’• ✌️

When I came home, I just had to try another “dessert” even though I was on a slight endorphin/sugar high. Quest Labs released a chocolate chip protein cookie, but the appearance of the chocolate chunks spooked me out, haha!

questproteincookie
Not gonna lie, the new protein “cookie” from Quest Labs kinda spooked me out with all those chocolate chunks. Alien cookie much πŸ‘½ πŸͺ ? Overall, I found it to be thin, slightly doughy, and tasted more like a flattened out Quest CCCD bar. In that regard I guess it tastes alright, but this ain’t Lenny and Larry’s 😏

Overall, I wasn’t amazed by the concept or the outcome of their protein “cookie”. To me, it just looked like a flattened out version of their CCCD protein bar.

I’m waiting for the day a protein donut will come into existence. I’ll be even more shocked if they sell it at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. And you bet I’d be the first one in line if they were giving it away for free at a booth of a race expo πŸ˜‰

Mr Holmes Bakehouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

I have a huge 12 page proposal due soon, and with this on my mind the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was anxiously-driven to put in some concrete hours working on it.

picmonkey-collage
Tried a new RX Bar flavor from Trader Joe’s—Maple Sea Salt! I love how it has salt speckles that sparkle like diamonds!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into lab that weekend, so it also gave me plenty of time to sleep in for a bit, and then set up shop at a local library.

apple-caramel-yogurt
Tried this interesting new seasonal greek yogurt flavor —> Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt? Tastes more like cream cheese with apple pieces…uh, I guess that could be appetizing but when you expect yogurt and taste cream cheese, it’s quite a surprise πŸ€” .

I also had a hankering for pizza, so I made it my first priority to get myself a warm, hearty tomato-based pie before working. This meant waking up around 8 (because that’s my definition of sleeping in) and then heading over to Novel Cafe because I heard they had pretty good pizza, among other things.

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Novel Cafe

The outside was covered in calligraphy and murals, while the inside had an interesting layout. There were one (or two?) shops within the restaurant selling what I assume was jewelry, but they also didn’t seem to be affiliated with the restaurant.

teninthemorning
Casual seating area

I sat at a table in the center, and in my view was an empty juice bar, and bakery cases full of pastries and bread. I was handed a long, laminated menu and my eyes immediately gravitated to the pizza section. I had to go for the organic vegan topped with zen buddha cheese…

vegan-pizza
VEGAN PIZZA,COME TO ME!

…it also came with other goodies like rich tomato sauce, zucchini, and mushrooms!

melt
That melty “cheese”

My pizza was a medium, but it was the perfectly-sized personal pizza. It took me a while to finish, but that’s because each bread-y bite took some work to chew. Each slice was thin enough to fold NY style.

I left with a full tummy and gathered enough energy to get to work on my paper for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I spent a good three hours at the library, hard at work, before I decided to venture home and crash into a carb-induced coma of a nap.

The next day, I continued to put those carbs to use when I ventured out for a fourteen miler with my marathon team. My running buddy and I kept a consistent pace the entire time, making us enthusiastic about our marathon prospects. If all goes well, I may be significantly PR’ing come March πŸ˜‰

veggie-wrap
Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap w/ Hummus – The wrap itself is so soft…and each bite is chock full of hummus!

I did some grocery shopping after the run and before heading home, all on now-tight quads! I picked up a new-to-me wrap from Trader Joe’s for lunch while watching the latest SNL episode.

hummus-wrap
What I had to say about this wrap —-> Is it actually raining in So Cal today 😱?? I thought it was pretty good timing on my part getting back home after a 14mi run JUST before the downpour. I wanted to get a lot of my written proposal done, but a lot of napping, SNL watching, and veggie wrap with hummus eating happened instead πŸ˜› But at least I did catch up in the sleep department πŸ‘

I had my fair share of hard work and relaxation in the weekend immediately preceding Thanksgiving, but I am more excited to type out my Thanksgiving recaps! That is…if I ever finish this proposal πŸ˜›

Novel CafΓ© Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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